Impressive Flemenstar underlines his credentials
RACING: PUNCHESTOWN REPORTPeter Casey’s colourful capacity for two-word responses is nationally known on the back of Flemenstar but it was jockey Andrew Lynch’s two-word answer to the vital stamina question at Punchestown yesterday that will resonate most – “no problem”.
Certainly if Flemenstar can carry the quality he showed in beating Sir Des Champs in yesterday’s John Durkan Chase over the three miles-plus of the Cheltenham Gold Cup in March then the rapturous response he got for his latest victory will be just a prelude.
Making all the running, Flemenstar and Lynch never looked in danger from their two rivals who, it has to be remembered, were Ireland’s other major Gold Cup hope and the defending Durkan champion.
However both Sir Des Champs and Rubi Light conclusively surrendered centre-stage to their rival and his ebullient trainer who declared in the winners enclosure: “And he’s still not ready!”
Lynch’s judgement and work-rate have made him one of the country’s leading jockeys. After yesterday’s two and a half mile task, the immediate query on everyone’s lips was will Flemenstar stay three miles?
“No problem,” Lynch said. “Of course until he goes and does it, you don’t know for sure, but I don’t expect it to be a problem. He is so much more relaxed now and picks up when something gets to him. He’s certainly right up there with the best I’ve ridden.”
That encouraged some bookmakers to go as low as 5-1 about Flemenstar for the Gold Cup but others went the same price about the Ryanair over a shorter trip at the festival just in case the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown over Christmas shows up a stamina kink. Not that Casey expects that.
“If we have to bring him the extra half mile in a barrow, we’ll do it!” he laughed, before playfully wondering if owner Stephen Curran could be persuaded instead to pay a €10,000 supplementary fee into the two-mile Dial-A-Bet Chase at the holiday festival. Curran’s answer was a determined “not a hope.”
The momentum around Flemenstar is already angled determinedly towards Cheltenham but unusually Curran admitted to not sharing the usual Irish devotion for the festival.
“I’m not in love with Cheltenham, and it’s not the end of the world if he doesn’t go,” he said without knocking the general Gold Cup dream off-stride in the least.
Nor it must be said is the blue-riband dream finished for Sir Des Champs despite losing his unbeaten record for Willie Mullins. The champion trainer also mentioned the Dial-A-Bet – “the experience of going a good clip could help him” – but a longer trip is what he is banking on in terms of future revenge against Flemenstar.
“A step-up in trip will be no harm to him,” Mullins acknowledged. “It was a good, solid run. And he always runs a little lazy. He’s also in the Lexus and the King George. We’ll see.”
Over two years after his fencing debut, the former top-class hurdler Mikael D’Haguenet finally got off the mark when beating Lord Windermere in the Beginners Chase.
“I think we’ll climb the ladder slowly with him, let him build his confidence. But he’s finally getting his act together,” Willie Mullins said after the middle-leg of a short-priced hat-trick initiated by Pride of the Parish in the maiden hurdle.
Mullins’s son Patrick was also on board Sizing Tennessee who was too strong for Redundant Man in the bumper. Mikael D’Haguenet’s jockey Paul Townend later doubled up on Glenquest in the handicap chase.
Henry De Bromhead enjoyed a good day at Cork but was at Punchestown to see Too Scoops get the better of Rory O’Moore and complete a big-race double for Andrew Lynch.